What Is Industrial Construction?

What Is Industrial Construction?

Have you ever wondered how massive warehouses or power plants are constructed? These types of construction projects are industrial because they require specific kinds of materials, expertise and planning. Since industrial buildings serve different purposes than commercial or residential buildings, they need to be treated as such throughout the construction process. So, what is industrial construction and what does it involve?

Learn more about the industrial construction industry, how it differs from commercial construction and what types of heavy equipment are necessary for industrial projects.

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Industrial Construction Definition

Industrial construction is a sector of the construction industry that's responsible for designing and building highly specialized structures and facilities for manufacturing, such as warehouses, factories and powerplants. Industrial buildings are designed in compliance with industry regulations and federal, state and local building codes. Ensuring compliance involves obtaining industrial permits and meeting occupancy requirements.

Industrial construction goes beyond designing and constructing these structures. The sector also focuses on ensuring the interior of a facility is suited for the intended operation. These types of buildings are built for practicality — they need effective floor plans and must support heavy equipment. Further, industrial construction projects focus heavily on coordinating distribution because many industrial facilities require special product conveyance, such as access to highways, air transportation, railroads, shipping yards or around-the-clock shipping and receiving capabilities.

Types of Industrial Buildings

Industrial buildings commonly fall under two categories — warehouse/distribution and manufacturing. Here are a few features commonly found in these types of industrial buildings:

  • Warehouse and distribution: These facilities store and transport goods. They're typically single-story buildings that can span hundreds of thousands of square feet. They have high ceilings to accommodate storage and racking systems for holding massive amounts of products. Warehouses and distribution centers also usually require loading docks, large doors and entryways and large parking lots for the trucks and trailers transporting goods.
  • Manufacturing: Manufacturing buildings are also called heavy industrial buildings. These buildings are where products and materials are produced. They house heavy machinery and equipment, requiring a powerful electric supply to carry out processes. Manufacturing buildings need heavy-duty exhaust and ventilation systems to filter out harmful fumes and chemicals and must be equipped with pressurized water or air lines, as most heavy industrial machines require them to function properly.

What Is the Difference Between Industrial and Commercial Construction?

Industrial and commercial construction are often confused with each other. As mentioned before, industrial construction involves constructing a building used to manufacture goods and products. On the other hand, commercial construction means constructing a building to house a business — grocery and retail stores, restaurants, sports facilities, private schools and hospitals are commercial buildings.

site planning

Industrial and commercial construction differ in nearly every aspect of the construction process, including:

  • Site planning: Every construction project begins with an in-depth analysis of the building site. The construction company will mark the lot boundaries and assess the lot size to pick the building location and determine traffic patterns. The sites for industrial and commercial buildings need to be planned differently because they have distinct necessities. For example, commercial buildings typically need easy access for customers or clients. An industrial facility would want close proximity to transportation avenues for shipping and receiving.
  • Design: For industrial projects, there's little to no need for aesthetic design — design is focused on well-coordinated distribution, logistics, safety and efficient production. Comparatively, commercial buildings place significant importance on interior and exterior aesthetics. Commercial building owners may have a desired look for the building to attract customers and appear visually pleasing.
  • Supporting infrastructure: Infrastructure like HVAC, plumbing and electricity run to various areas of a commercial construction project, so tenants can operate them as they wish. While industrial construction infrastructure is the same, it must support large machines under demanding requirements and strict regulations. Additionally, plumbing and electrical hookups are necessary for many types of industrial machines.
  • Project management: General contractors typically form a team of material suppliers and subcontractors to complete various parts of a commercial project. The biggest aspect of managing a commercial construction project is coordinating each third party to reach a shared goal. Since industrial construction projects often require skills and materials that go beyond that of commercial projects, industrial project management is more challenging. From large installations and on-site assemblies to custom fabrication, managing an industrial project is much more high-stakes. 
  • Project completion: Finalizing a commercial construction project is simpler than finalizing an industrial construction project. For example, when construction is complete, a commercial building owner typically only needs local zoning and planning board approval before opening for business. While this is also true of industrial projects, the nature of industrial buildings requires compliance with federal, state and local agency standards.

Important Aspects of an Industrial Construction Company

Since industrial construction has many specific and technical needs, there are high expectations for what an industrial construction company looks like. Not just any construction company or contractor can work on an industrial construction site — industrial construction requires certain qualities and capabilities.

Here are a few important aspects of high-quality, professional industrial construction companies:

Specialized Skill Sets

Industrial construction is a highly specialized construction sector. An industrial construction company employs contractors from various specialties to work together to complete highly technical projects from design to build and maintenance.

The combined experience of a skilled team enables an industrial construction company to be successful. For example, an industrial construction firm may have tradespeople specializing in industrial site planning or project management, which means they have the necessary skills to perform these roles at the industrial level.

Additionally, a significant amount of importance is placed on training, learning new skills and growing in the industry. When a construction company is dedicated to growth, it'll excel beyond the competition, offer more to its clients and operate successfully in the industrial construction sector.

Portfolio of Experience

With a high skill set should come an extensive portfolio of completed projects and experience. Because industrial construction projects involve a high level of technicality, industrial construction companies must prove they have the necessary experience to adequately complete a project. Top-ranking industrial construction firms will have experience working on various different industrial buildings and can provide positive client testimonials to verify their capabilities.

Innovative Technology

Using innovative technology is essential for an industrial construction company. For example, industrial buildings often require complex fabrications and systems that are time-consuming to construct on-site. To maximize a client's budget and increase their return on investment (ROI), many industrial construction companies utilize prefabrication construction.

Prefabrication construction involves constructing parts of a structure at a separate location and then transporting them to the site, where the structure will be fully assembled. Prefabricating many aspects of an industrial building can accelerate the construction process without sacrificing the quality of work.

Types of Industrial Construction Equipment

Industrial construction companies rely on heavy-duty equipment to complete various tasks. Many types of heavy equipment are versatile and can be used in other applications, such as commercial construction, landscaping and roadwork. Other pieces of equipment are specifically intended for certain applications. Understanding some of the different types of industrial equipment can help you determine what you may need for your next project.

Transportation Equipment

Whether you're transporting other equipment and materials to a job site or hauling and moving debris and waste, transportation equipment is a necessity for any industrial project. Without the ability to haul extensively, your project will fall behind.

Transportation devices vary to fulfill different needs and capabilities. For example, some are intended for on-site use only, while others can be operated on the road with a permit. Depending on your project's needs, you may consider using transportation equipment like:

  • Articulated haulers: Also referred to as articulated trucks, these vehicles are commonly found on industrial construction sites because they can traverse various terrains. Articulated haulers primarily haul dirt and debris around the construction site and to other dumping sites.
  • Dump trucks: Dump trucks are one of the most popular transportation vehicles on any construction site. They're generally needed throughout the project to haul and dump loose materials. These vehicles are versatile and can be used to haul nearly any material.
  • On/off-highway trucks: On-highway trucks and off-highway trucks are both hauling vehicles, though as their names suggest, one is intended only for on-site use and the other is for transporting loads on public roadways. On-highway trucks operate like standard trucks on the road with increased versatility. Off-highway trucks haul debris and materials around a job site and are extremely beneficial on large industrial projects.
  • Equipment and utility trailers: Industrial-grade utility trailers are used to transport construction equipment to and from a job site. These trailers are towed behind a truck and can carry various tools, building supplies and equipment.

Material Handling Equipment

Material handling equipment moves tools, supplies and other equipment around a construction site. Most often, this type of equipment provides the necessary hoist and lift capacities to reach high spaces. For example, if your team works at hard-to-reach heights, material handling equipment allows you to move the necessary materials and tools to that area.

material handling equipment

Consider how these material handling machines can provide ease and safety when moving industrial materials:

  • Crane trucks: With an experienced operator at the controls, crane trucks are a reliable piece of equipment to use for moving heavy loads to high work areas. Crane trucks offer optimal maneuverability because they drive like standard trucks.
  • Aerial boom lifts: Aerial boom lifts are effective for lifting supplies and personnel to heights ranging from 30 feet to 180 feet. Boom lifts are available in various configurations to accommodate different industrial needs.
  • Forklifts: Forklifts are ideal for low-height lifts, though what they lack in extension they make up for in high capacity. This type of equipment can lift loads with significant weight, helping you move heavy loads around the job site.
  • Telehandlers: Telehandlers reach the highest heights with their telescopic arms. With this machine, you can safely lift personnel and supplies with a stable platform. Telehandlers can even be outfitted with various attachments for greater capabilities.

Earthmoving Equipment

Every construction project begins with earthmoving equipment. Before installation and building can occur, the chosen site needs to be leveled and prepared for construction. Site preparation involves digging, loading, moving, compacting and grading significant amounts of heavy rock, soil and mineral to create an adequate building surface. Digging into tough terrain requires powerful, robust machinery that can move earth efficiently to keep project managers on schedule.

Here are some common types of earthmoving equipment you may use on an industrial construction site:

  • Bulldozers: Dozers are powerful, heavy-duty machines designed to crush, move and push significant amounts of rock, dirt and debris. Bulldozers are often used to clear boulders and other large, heavy debris from a construction site. They're available in multiple sizes and can be outfitted with attachments to meet different industrial needs.
  • Excavators: Excavators are one of the most versatile and desired earthmoving machines. These machines are used for digging, though they can be outfitted with attachments to offer more capabilities. Excavators have wide tracks that provide stability and allow the machine to move over uneven surfaces. 
  • Scrapers: Scrapers are ideal for clearing and leveling spacious industrial sites. Their combined digging and leveling capabilities efficiently prepare expansive land areas for construction. Different types of scrapers can create more specific clearing results.
  • Compactors: Once a site is cleared and leveled, a compactor can come through to compress and crush dirt and soil to create a solid, smooth and level work site. The condensed earth is more stable to support the foundation of an industrial building.
  • Loaders: Loaders are versatile tools that can excavate and load dirt and rocks. For example, backhoe loaders have a bucket and excavation arm, allowing them to dig or pickup and move waste.

Find Industrial Construction Equipment at The Cat® Rental Store

Industrial construction projects require a wide range of heavy equipment to aid in the construction process from start to finish. At The Cat® Rental Store, we offer the most extensive industrial construction equipment inventory, helping you find the best equipment for your project.

All of our equipment is professionally maintained and will make a reliable addition to your fleet. Whether you need to build an entire industrial construction fleet or need one or two versatile machines, you'll find premium Cat equipment at The Cat Rental Store.

Locate the equipment you need at The Cat Rental Store near you or call us at 1-800-RENT-CAT to speak with a representative today.

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